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Horner blames “irresponsible” Ocon for robbing Brazil victory

The Red Bull Team Principal has hit out at the Force India driver, who collided with Max Verstappen in Brazil.

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Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner looks on from the pit wall in Brazil (Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool).

Christian Horner says Esteban Ocon’s driving in the Brazilian Grand Prix was “irresponsible” and the Red Bull Team Principal blames the Frenchman for robbing Max Verstappen of back-to-back Formula 1 race wins after the two drivers collided. 

On lap 43 of the race in Sao Paulo, race leader Verstappen attempted to lap Ocon, who was outside of points at the time, but the pair came together and both drivers spun out. The incident allowed Lewis Hamilton to retake the lead of the race, which he held until the end. Verstappen was left to finish in P2, 1.5 seconds adrift of the Mercedes. 

As it happened: Esteban Ocon (left) collides with Max Verstappen in the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix (Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool). 

At the time of the incident, Max Verstappen described Ocon as an “idiot” for his role, a comment he would then repeat in the immediate post-race interview with Paul Di Resta. “I have no words,” Verstappen said.

Then, a scuffle between Verstappen and Ocon broke out in the FIA garage as the drivers were weighed. Footage captured by Canal+ Sport, a French broadcaster, shows Verstappen pushing Esteban Ocon three times before storming out. Ocon does not push back, but does put his hand forward in protest as the pair exchange words that were not captured my microphones.

This Instagram video, posted by the official Formula 1 account, best shows the scuffle that broke out. 

“Why on earth is he racing the leader?” Christian Horner asked when interviewed by Sky Sports F1 in the immediate aftermath of the race. “You shouldn’t interfere with the leader,” he said. When questioned about the physical contact between the drivers, Horner said Ocon was “lucky” to receive just a push, as the contact cost Verstappen a race victory. “Max has been pretty restrained,” he added. 

[Read more about the scuffle between Max Verstappen and Esteban Ocon here.]

Later, the FIA summoned both drivers for breaching Article 12.1.1.c, citing “physical contact with another competitor” as the reason. The Stewards, after holding a hearing with both drivers, determined Verstappen had failed to “act appropriately” as a role model. As a punishment, he will serve two days of public service within the next six months.

Verstappen, after the physical altercation with Ocon, continued to criticize the Frenchman in the post-race press conference. When asked about the scuffle, he told reporters he didn’t have anything to comment, “except that he [Ocon] was being a pussy.”

Force India driver Esteban Ocon (pictured) was deemed responsible for the collision with Max Verstappen in the Brazilian Grand Prix (Image courtesy of Force India F1). 

When asked whether Ocon’s 10 second stop/go penalty was severe enough as a punishment, Verstappen lamented that “at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter what penalty he gets” because it wouldn’t give him the race victory. 

“I don’t know what you want me to say, it’s always bad when you get taken out from the lead,” Verstappen said. 

[Read more about how Verstappen’s race unfolded, from fifth on the grid, to the almost-victory that could’ve been.]

Esteban Ocon, speaking after the race, told reporters he’d been advised by Force India to overtake Verstappen, as he was quicker and had been stuck behind the Red Bull for two laps. “Max didn’t give me any space,” Ocon proclaimed post-race, pointing out that he couldn’t just “disappear” on the apex of turn 2. 

Force India Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer (pictured) does not agree with Ocon’s 10 second stop/go penalty in the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix (Image courtesy of Force India F1). 

Force India Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer said he completely disagreed with the penalty when talking to Sky Sports F1 during the race. He also denied any conspiracy theory that Ocon had deliberate intentions, given he is part of the Mercedes Junior Team and his collision primarily benefitted Mercedes.

The incident prevented Verstappen from securing his second consecutive race win, after he took top honours at last fortnight’s Mexican Grand Prix. The Dutchman has never won back-to-back Grands Prix.

“We should’ve won today,” he said post-race. 

Steven Walton is an 18-year-old Journalism Student at the Ara Institute of Canterbury. He previously attended St Andrew's College in Christchurch, where he excelled at History and Classical Studies. Steven is the Editor-in-Chief at Green Flag F1 and spends most of his days living, breathing, and immersing in the Formula 1 world.

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